I don’t entirely agree with Norquist’s jab at the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, though I’ll not pretend that either mission was perfect, but he’s right. Republicans need to stop carrying on as though prudent review and reform of military spending were somehow tantamount to inviting our enemies in through the front door.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, his would-be vice president Paul Ryan, and defense hawks in Congress are wrong that savings can’t be found in the U.S. defense budget, according to Grover Norquist, the influential president of Americans for Tax Reform, who said that he will fight using any new revenues to keep military spending high.
“We can afford to have an adequate national defense which keeps us free and safe and keeps everybody afraid to throw a punch at us, as long as we don’t make some of the decisions that previous administrations have, which is to over extend ourselves overseas and think we can run foreign governments,” Norquist said Monday at an event at the Center for the National Interest, formerly the Nixon Center.
But Ryan’s views are at odds with those of Norquist and other budget hawks, who argue that defense budgets can be trimmed. Ryan’s budget plan provides for increasing military spending and doesn’t suggest any tradeoff or specific defense reforms.
“Other people need to lead the argument on how can conservatives lead a fight to have a serious national defense without wasting money,” Norquist said. “I wouldn’t ask Ryan to be the reformer of the defense establishment.”
Back during the early days of the Bush administration, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about a massive reorganization and redeployment of the military globally. Rumsfeld pointed out that many of our overseas deployments areas were located as though we were still facing Cold War-era threats, and that we could save a lot of money while making our military more effective by redeploying our troops to recognize more modern threats and modern military capacities.
Nothing ever really came of that, mostly I think because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the resulting political turmoil overshadowed it, but it was a good idea then and it’s a good idea now.
Standing in the way, unfortunately, is knee-jerk opposition from the right to any proposed military budget reforms. The right reacts to defense spending reforms in the same way Democrats react to entitlement reforms. With thinly-veiled hysteria and unfair invective.
That needs to stop. Just like any other branch of government, the military shouldn’t be immune to accountability.